Baseball is an incredibly fun game to watch—this much we know. However, many people who watch baseball are often unaware of how intricate and detailed America’s favorite past time actually is. There are many things constantly happening, changing, and interacting with each other during the course of a single game, leaving plenty of room for those who are interested in exploring the nuance of the sport.
Out of all of the complicated relationships that you might be unaware of in baseball, none are as interesting as the relationship between the catcher and pitcher. For any baseball team looking to win, understanding the relationship between the catcher and pitcher is essential.
The signals that the catcher uses to communicate with the pitcher lets them know what’s going on and which pitch they think should be next. Regardless of which league you’re watching, there are some incredible ways to communicate that can change the course of any given game.
However, there’s also a rich history behind the tradition and details that are worth noting.
The History of Catcher Sign Language
Believe it or not, but the sign language that catchers use to communicate with the pitcher actually has a history that is just as American as, well, baseball! The specific hand signals stretch back to the civil war, being a reference to when Confederate officers would communicate battle plans to soldiers and vice-versa.
For example, the system of communication was called “wig-wag” and involved waving a given object back and forth to indicate whether or not Union soldiers were nearby. Eventually, other gestures such as winks were added to the roster so there were more options for players to communicate with each other regarding bunk inspections.
So, with this long history of Baseball Catcher Signals, it’s clear that there is some sort of standardization that allows people to explain exactly what it means for a catcher to communicate with a pitcher.
Basic Baseball Catcher Signals
Though there are many complications when looking at Baseball Catcher Signals, there are some basic methods that hold the overall technique together.
For example, the fingers are key. To communicate that the pitcher should pitch a fastball, the catcher should put down one finger. For a curveball, the catcher should put down two fingers. If the catcher wants a changeup, three fingers is necessary to communicate that to the pitcher.
Each catcher-pitcher duo will have their own nuances in this communication, but these are the easiest guidelines to follow for those looking for basic symbols. If a player wants to communicate most effectively, it’s important to approach the person you’re working with before the game so there’s no miscommunication with your technique.
Once you move past the basic signals that can be used to communicate between a catcher and pitcher, you open the floor for more location-based signals. For instance, signaling the pitching type with fingers is then followed by tapping one’s thigh to tell the pitcher just where they should be pitching to.
Giving an odd number of taps means that the pitch should be outside the hitter, with even numbers representing inside pitches. The catcher can also communicate how close they would like the pitch to be in proximity to the ground by raising the height of their finger symbols.
When Complications Arise
Being able to communicate effectively to a pitcher can be difficult when there is a runner on second base. This is because many baseball players are usually familiar with the catcher-pitcher relationship regardless if that’s the position they occupy, as it’s common knowledge and important to know. By using this knowledge and being on the field, the runner can read what the catcher is saying to predict what type of pitch will then be thrown at the batter.
Because of this, many catchers will speak with the pitcher before the game in order to properly disguise their Baseball Catcher Signals, whether it be through changing up the location of their signals or even having different signals entirely.
One of the most common ways in which catchers can communicate when there is a runner in the field is by giving a series of numbers as opposed to just one. By using this, they can not only divert the attention of the runner observing, but also confuse them by giving numbers that seemingly have no relationship to each other.
Of course, some runners are good at deciphering communication and will be able to figure out signs easily, but if a catcher notices this it’s also possible to call a time-out so they can coordinate with the pitcher to change up the signals they’re using.
This is a more complicated method of catcher signals, but sometimes the catcher will communicate with their head or eyes so the pitcher can know the location of the pitch without having to look at the catcher’s hands. This is not a standardized method of communication and as a result should be treated as such, figured out on an individual basis between certain players.
Understanding the ways in which a catcher communicates to a pitcher is essential to having a true understanding of baseball. This is why Baseball Catcher Signals are so important, because they highlight the nuance in communication that occurs on the baseball field.
So, to review:
- Baseball Catcher Signals have a history stretching back to the Civil War
- Signals are mostly exchanged with hands, but can sometimes be facial
- They are efficient in communicating which pitch should be next
With a proper understanding of these signals and how they work in the context of a baseball game, you’ll surely be on your way to being a nuanced spectator or even a seasoned catcher!